“I’m a poser. I’m not an actual cowboy,” said Wallice in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I want to be a real cowboy though.”
Rising indie artist and Los Angeles local Wallice Hana Watanabe, known mononymously as Wallice, is not the typical cowboy you see on the silver screen, even if she insists that “California is the Wild West.” But with her printed cowboy hats and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, she’s crafty, adventurous and unafraid to explore new frontiers.
“Cowboy hats are everywhere now, obviously. Even when I made my visuals, they were popular,” Wallice said. “But I have been drawn to them for some reason. Maybe a past life connection or something.”
Though her recent collaboration with Oscar Lang, titled “I’ve Never Been to LA,” suggests otherwise, Wallice’s sunny Southern California surroundings weave their way into her artistry. Immersed in the flourishing film scene, she celebrates all things cinematic; some of her favorite movies include “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
“I watch a lot of movies. I have a movie theater pass,” Wallice said. “It’s a very important part of LA culture. People talk about it in a very bad way, but I really love it. And I think because I’m from here, I have a very different perspective of the movie industry.”
On her latest EP 90s American Superstar, Wallice embraces the art of performance, imagining a “Rich Wallice” and her own rock and roll “Funeral.” Recorded in a home studio at her grandparents’ place in Utah, the project feels both DIY and conceptually developed, making for an exhilarating listen.
“(The songs) were written in a short amount of time, which is why I think they are very cohesive,” Wallice said. “I guess I didn’t actually explain to anyone as I was writing it that all the songs go together in a way, but I’m very influenced by film and television, so having this storyline throughout was very fun.”
90s American Superstar marks a notable departure from Wallice’s debut EP Off the Rails, trading understated indie for grungy alternative rock. While early single “23” candidly explores early 20s malaise, her more recent release “John Wayne” embraces her “unhinged” alter ego. Traversing an unpredictable landscape of genre and sound, Wallice finds much of her influence from the music she listens to.
“When we wrote 90s American Superstar, that EP we were listening to The Strokes,” Wallice said. “I mean, I always listen to Weezer and The Strokes. Those are my two constant favorite bands since I was like 13.”
On her latest single “Japan,” released Nov. 30, Wallice slows down and looks inward to reflect on her family and her Japanese heritage. Though she originally wrote the song in English, she later translated it into Japanese — releasing the track in both languages.
“I don’t even know why I wrote about this topic one day, but my dad’s from Japan, I’m half Japanese. And I’ve always had a strong connection there,” Wallice said. “Even though I haven’t necessarily spent much time in Japan, probably altogether two or three months of my life. So not long at all. But it’s such an influential part of my life.”
In addition to making music, Wallice is also a dedicated ceramicist. Growing up with her mother’s kiln in the garage, she became enamored with the craft during the pandemic. Now, she sells her pieces online and shares her work on the Instagram account @walliceceramics.
“For a while, I did very Western themed ceramics,” Wallice said, discussing some of her favorite pieces. “I have one cowboy boot vase I made. And then I have planters where the plant pot has two arms and one of the arms is holding a cowboy hat. ”
Wallice may not have very many headline shows under her belt, but earlier this year, she opened over 30 shows for indie artist Still Woozy. Bringing together early hits, unreleased tracks and even a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” she wowed artists with an enthralling fusion of laid-back beats and alt-rock anthems.
“(Still Woozy) is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Wallice said. “I think it really did spoil me, the touring experience, because he was so generous and friendly. And it was amazing.”
Now, Wallice is embarking on her own mini headline tour, which includes a performance at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop on Dec. 8.
“It’s just everyone there is for me,” Wallice said. “So it’s just a lot more energy from the crowd, which makes the show so much better and so fun. I’m really excited.”
Wallice may not be a cowboy in the traditional sense, but as she claims her space in the indie-rock scene, she’s surely saddled in for a wild ride.